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Yemen Claims Key Al-Qaida Leader Killed

January 16, 2010

by Haley Sweetland Edwards
SAN’A, Yemen (Jan. 15) – An air strike in northern Yemen on Friday killed at least six al-Qaida militants, including an important military commander, according to the Yemeni government news agency.

The commander, Qassim al-Raymi, was killed in a strike on two cars traveling between the villages of Taibat al-Ism and al-Buqa in the province of al-Jawf, near the Saudi Arabian border, the government reported.

The government claims to have killed or arrested numerous members of the local branch of al-Qaida in recent weeks, but al-Raymi has been the most high profile of those targets. If al-Raymi was killed, experts say, the strike would be a significant blow to the al-Qaida organization in Yemen.

Al-Raymi is said to have been one of three top leaders of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the entity that claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 en route to Detroit on Christmas Day.

Al-Raymi was imprisoned in 2005 for plotting to bomb several foreign embassies in Yemen, but escaped with 22 other militants in a prison break in 2006. Nasir al-Wuhayshi, another leader of AQAP, also escaped in that prison break, which led to the formation of the group.

Yemeni authorities have accused al-Raymi of helping to plan a 2007 suicide bombing that killed eight Spanish tourists and two Yemenis in the city of Marib.

The government also claimed to have killed several other suspected al-Qaida members in the strike Friday, including Aidh al-Shabwani. He was wanted in connection with the kidnapping of nine foreigners last June in the region of the country where the air strike took place.

Since the attempted attack on Christmas Day, Yemen has been under international pressure to fight AQAP, which has been using the country’s ungoverned regions as a safe haven to plot attacks. But leading that fight is complicated by the deep penetration of AQAP into Yemen’s tribal structures.

On Thursday, the government declared “open war” on al-Qaida elements in the country and warned that there would be imminent attacks on militants and anyone harboring them. On the same day, roughly 150 Yemeni Islamic scholars published a statement declaring that any foreign involvement in the country would “permit its citizens to call jihad to expel its attackers.”

The United States has in the past few months admitted to providing intelligence and air support for strikes against al-Qaida targets in Yemen but has not acknowledged any involvement in the most recent strikes.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 18, 2010 8:07 pm

    Dear Haley,
    I have doubt about truth
    on the death of AQAP military commander.
    Nobody can confirm it.
    Best wishes

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